I love them. When I see them, something confusing happens in my cells…as if there is a part of me that remembers a time when a cloud was just a cloud. Yes, sometimes it could have resembled a buffalo or a face, but it was just a cloud, no geometry involved
There was no one up there drawing perfectly straight lines across the sky…..
Can you imagine being Native to our country and looking upward to Father Sky only to see views like these?
This might be a stretch, but I have discovered a hidden prejudice.
I’m not being too hard on myself for it though. We have all been inundated with this bias for eons. Not that a history of being misinformed excuses racism or anything.
But this is a black vs. white thing.
I know the bad guy is usually on the black horse and the good guy on a bright white steed. I know black cats are supposedly scary and bad luck. I also know the black dogs in an animal shelter are the last to be adopted. Oh, and supposedly we all have this dark side and we need to be sharing more light in the world.
What the hell is all that anyway? Where did it come from?
I’m sure someone out there knows way more about all this than I and this is not really a post about the archetypes in history anyway.
It’s about Mushrooms.
I don’t really know anything about mushrooms…except that I will enjoy them in a salad or sometimes even sauté them in butter and they are yummy. But what isn’t yummy when sautéed in butter, right? But that is the extent of my knowledge. (I know, I know, I came of age in the 1960’s in California so I should at least know about “Shrooms”, right? I just never went there…)
But on my daily walks, I recently spotted some of these fungi growing and started photographing them. I found quite a variety, including some cute little patches that reminded me somehow of tiny fairy villages…or families.
There were a lot of different kinds, shapes, sizes and colors. I do live in the Pacific Northwest after all and it is seriously WET up here.
All of these were so interesting…their patterns of growth, their shape, size, and their similar but different hues. I’m probably passing up some fancy truffles or something, but I also know some mushrooms can be toxic. I have no idea how to identify those, so I just left them ALL alone for whatever creature eats them in the wild of my suburban neighborhood.
Then I spotted these, right in my own yard.
They literally popped up overnight and gave me the creeps when I bent down to snap a picture with my phone. They just LOOK evil…like they could reach up and grab me, or spit blinding venom in my eyes or something.
Even if someone told me these mushrooms were an extremely sought-after delicacy, I think I’d rather eat a snake than go near these things again. I’m afraid to even remove them. They might release deadly spores into the air.
They are scary looking…especially because they are black, not a clean white or a warm, enticing golden color…you know, how mushrooms are supposed to look.
I purposely did not Google (yes, it is now officially a VERB) mushrooms before I wrote this because I didn’t want to influence my initial reaction. I finally tried Wikipedia, Googles Reverse Image, etc., etc. But I never found my new arrivals. James says they look like they are from Mordor.
This theme touches me deeply. I have had so many clients in my 40 some years in private practice who are terribly damaged because the responsible adults in their lives when they were kids, told them they were “crazy”.
Their attempts at art or music were criticized.
Their young and innocent goals were diminished.
They had just imagined that abuse.
They were told often enough that they were crazy, they actually began to wonder…and that WILL drive you to MADNESS, not being able to trust your own intelligence, perceptions and intuition in your life.
(This post is dedicated to my compassionate friend in Kentucky. You know who you are and you are not CRAZY!)
Crazy by Gnarls Barkley (CeeLo Green and Danger Mouse)
I remember when
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space
And when you’re out there, without care
Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
And now that you are having the time of your life
Well think twice
That’s my only advice
Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you
Who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you’re in control?
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
I think you’re crazy
Just like me
My heroes had the heart
To lose their lives out on a limb
And all I remember, is thinking
I wanna be like them
Mm hmm ever since I was little
Ever since I was little it looked like fun
And it’s no coincidence I’ve come
And I can die when I’m done
Anyway, my last two bugs, having lived way longer than any of their female-only ancestors, passed away last summer and I was way sadder than I would have expected. It was probably much more existential grief than I want to admit…end of an era…passing of time…my own mortality, etc.
Or maybe I had simply bonded to these mild, extravagant creatures. I confess, I LOVED my bugs!!
For the seven or eight years I have raised Giant Spiny Australian Leaf bugs (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extatosoma_tiaratum) I saved every single one of the hundreds of eggs they laid, hoping for later hatchings. (It takes over a year when *parthenogenesis is the method.) I kept the eggs safe and in the medium suggested by my research on Google (warm, moist soil).
With the last batch born (39 of them) I knew I was getting tired…but not of my bugs. They are so easy to care for. Feed them and put fresh paper towels at the bottom of their terrarium every 10 days or so. No big deal. (Well, I am leaving out the part that James does for me…scrounging around for uncontaminated Blackberry bushes, cutting off several branches, and then “dethorning” them for the safety of the bigger bugs who can accidentally impale themselves on these thorns. Poor James comes home bleeding every time!)
It had become quite an extravagant hobby.
After so many generations, I was up to a whole “colony”. With each new generation, I would happily give away as many bugs as I could to good homes (schools, parents, friends, independent Pet Stores… boy, are those hard to find now…) but it was requiring a lot more of the kind of energy I no longer have due to my age or an exhausting autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s? I don’t know which.
Also, at that number of bugs, there were just too many for me to “socialize”…meaning, getting the bugs used to being handled by humans. I wanted the occasional brave guest to be able to have the experience of one of these mild monsters sitting peacefully in the palm of their hand. This last batch had basically no direct human contact.
When I could feel the end nearing for my two oldest Queens, I did not do anything to protect or preserve their hundreds of eggs in the way their gestation requires. That was a much more difficult decision than I would have thought.
When they both died, I gave them what I considered a loving and respectful send off by placing them on blossoms outside in the sun. My keeping them safe in captivity may have given them a much longer life but had prevented their outdoor experience.
I put away the terrariums, and the jars that acted as vases for Blackberry vines. I gathered books and tchotchkes to fill up the empty shelves, dresser tops and counters that used to hold giant Bug Homes for all to see. I had all those interesting-looking eggs in a bowl and just set them off somewhere on a shelf.
I have missed my bugs. I know they are not pets in the way most of us think of a pet…like a companion. I didn’t talk to them or anything, at least not nearly as much as I talk to my cats (wish I had a winking emoji for right here…)
I did try to provide entertainment for them though…exposure to different settings, and playing loud music for them. They love Comfortably Numb and actually sway in time with music, but I guess I needed copyright permission for a video I made with Pink Floyd playing in the background, because WordPress would not include it in that post long ago.
But for all those years they were such a mild, peaceful presence in my life.
Having that amazing bug activity, straight from a David Attenborough-type nature show, happening right in my living room, was a constant and graphic reminder of the miracles in Nature. The molting process alone would blow the most uninterested of minds.
I think I have missed seeing daily the natural flow of the bugs’ stages, the proof that though one life comes to an end, another is always starting…
And those gentle bugs actually made me miss my life’s work a little less. In my practice, I was a regular witness to the amazing cycle of human life……coaching childbirths, end of life counselling, with all of life’s challenges, traumas and gifts in between.
Retirement! Heck, what was I thinking???
Now this will seem like an abrupt change of subject, but we have this cat named Lucy. She was born in the wild (well, in the woodpile in front of our mountain home). She is by far the most mildcat either of us have ever had. We think she is expressing gratitude for allowing her to adopt us as her humans, and rescuing her from a treacherous life in the mountains filled with cougars, coyotes and bears….to say nothing of the below zero temps we sometimes have in the winter. She is gentle and careful and sweet and affectionate (this last, at her own whim of course…she IS a CAT after all).
And she is also amazing in that she learns after just one or two corrections. I post about her a lot. You can read her story here:
Her most vicious trait is that she hunts, chases, kills and eats spiders. I have mixed feelings about that but so far have not prevented her Spider Patrols. What can I say, I’m a hypocrite.
Last week, I had a shocking experience. I lifted a pile of papers off the table I was working on and found a dead (squashed?) BABY BUG!!! Absolutely no idea how it got there. Or from how long ago? And did Sweet Lucy do this or did I crush a new baby bug and not even know it?
I Confess, I actually cried.
And then, I had an even more surprising realization. It seemed unrelated but in my tears I discovered how much I HATE being even semi-retired. (I see maybe 4 clients a month on average.) I miss working so much. I loved my well over 40 years of being a Group Psychotherapist with a booming practice. I never got tired of it. I never experienced “burn out”. I worked hard to live the principals I taught so I never really experienced the conflict and dissonance possible in that line of work. I was really, REALLY happy being able to do the work I was doing.
AND I missed my post-retirement hobby, my BUGS!
I want BUGS and I want to WORK!
You’ve heard the old Chinese proverb “Be careful what you wish for”?
In the last 5 days, SIX live, baby bugs have appeared out of nowhere in my office. I don’t have any eggs stashed in here. No adult bugs were ever loose in this room to drop unknown eggs. I have no idea where these hatch-lings are coming from, but I do know that after the very first one, which Lucy spotted up on the ceiling, I had a talk with her to remind her the difference between spiders and our bugs. Since then, five more have hatched and been unmolested by our Gentle Hunter Lucy. She just sits and watches them until I can capture and contain them. (I cannot however, confirm what she does behind my back of course.)
But anyway, apparently, I am on my way again, with a whole new generation of Extatosoma_tiaratum.
Gosh, maybe my phone will start ringing soon and I’ll have some new clients to work with too!?!
Even though the pictures were not my best in terms of quality, I think I will remember photographing the pair of Bald Eagles who chose my neighborhood in which to hang out last Spring and Summer.
I could reliably find them most early mornings or late evenings in the tree right in front of my house. I swear, they were there to watch the sunrise and sunset each day, facing East starting just before 5 AM and back again later, looking West as the sun sank below the horizon each night.
I rarely saw then actually arrive or take off again so capturing this next shot was a thrill.
But the highlight for me came long after they were gone, off to wherever Bald Eagles Winter here in the Northwest.
I had developed quite a sense of safety and inspiration from their daily visits. It is easy to feel “watched over” by one of these majestic birds, and luckily for me, easy to define that experience as being protected (as opposed to hunted) during a particularly painful and challenging time in my life.
I have to admit, I was surprised by how much I missed seeing them every day.
In the late Fall I was composing a post about how dark and dreary it can get here in the Northwest, and how much I missed the brightness of Spring and Summer. I picked a photograph (out of hundreds) to show the beauty and light of Spring. and it was not until I was previewing the post that I saw my Protector in the shot I chose…still there, protecting me…
This is one of my favorite photos of the year, maybe ever.
And the lessons abound about looking at life more closely so that I don’t miss all of the beauty it has to offer.